Elizabeth Rosa Humphreys on the 14th of June 1867 in Newnham on Severn in Gloucestershire, a village lying beside the River Severn and on the Edge of the Forest of Dean.
How would I describe my Mother? Stately as a galleon is one way. She was very ladylike and very precise. If she had us lined up ready for church or chapel we all had to have our gloves on and our shoes polished and our hats on straight, but chiefly our gloves. She used to tell me that someone had once remarked of her that; "She walks like a Duchess". She was always smart, though she didn’t have to have the latest fashions, which was perhaps just as well but she always bought the best quality clothes that she could afford. Always smart and well spoken was my mother, definitely not Yorkshire born -there was often a trace of the Gloucestershire burr apparent when she talked. Mum was a quiet sort of person but she had a sense of humour. She loved poems and would often quote them to us. One which harked back to her childhood was;
From Newnham up to Little Dean Along the old road steep and green And then again to Newnham town Oft have I wandered up and down.
She had been born at Newnham and Little Dean was the next village. I used to hear her talk about it fondly.
I’m not sure exactly how she came to be in Yorkshire. I believe that she came to stay with some friends at Buttercrambe and she met my father while she was staying there. In 1898 he went to Birmingham to an agricultural show with his prize cattle and they met up there and were married; combined business and pleasure. It would all have been planned but they made one journey do. I was often told the tale of how “Old George” had gone off to this show with his prize cattle and came home with a big silver cup on one arm and a bride on the other.
Mum was a marvelous cook, having spent some period of her life as a cook in gentleman's service though I don't really know where she worked. My cousin Carrie Jackson believed that she came to be cook at Aldby Park and that after she left she used to visit friends at Buttercrambe, she thinks they were called Oliver. Mum never talked to me about being in service but I heard her talk about being a cook and people used to say that she could make things taste like 'something else again'. She could certainly bake. She could make bread, cakes, pastry you name it and she talked about finger bowls and such like; it was all first class catering.
When she cooked game such as pheasant, hare or venison, she knew all the proper accompaniments like Jugged Hare and half a pot of Port Wine in the gravy! She used to do it in one of those stone jars. Fry it, sear it first and pop it in there with the gravy and spices and whatever she put in it and put it in the oven for two or three hours. Pheasant was often on the menu -my mouth waters now at the thought of it. Officially they were game and sacrosanct but if a bird got too cheeky round the farmyard, somebody would take a pot shot at it, so we often had one.
She didn’t sew as much as Marjorie and I were to do, but on an evening she used to knit socks. She taught both of us how to knit socks and I think I could still knit a pair now though I never had a pattern. She used to knit them on four needles, gray socks for all the lads; four lads and the farm hands. And when they got worn and darned and they got to a certain point you just cut the foot off, saved the welt bit and picked up the stitches on it and knitted on a new foot. “Waste not, want not” as the old saying goes. She was forever on with socks.
Mid you, mum worked very hard with all of her duties around the farmhouse, though she did get to relax. After midday dinner she would always go and lay down on the sofa or settee or sometimes go to bed for an hour and evenings were a quieter time too.
And as I say, she loved poetry. She would recite all sorts of bits that he had learned at school. At a time of year when the days were getting longer, Mother used to like sitting in the twilight and recite poetry or something like that. It used to annoy me because I wanted a light on to be reading or sewing or something but she would love to sit there in the twilight She never wrote her own, it was stuff she could remember from schooldays like “From a little boy to his Donkey”;
How well do I remember yetHow very proud I used to getWhen like a little King I’d sitUpon my Ass. The hounds I followed hard one dayTo keep in sight was merely playWhen a stray briar crossed my wayAnd scratched my Ass.
There were about a dozen more verses but you get the gist of it!
She liked reading too, though she would have left school at eleven or twelve, as they did in those days. Once they got to a certain standard in the school they left. I don’t know where she worked or how long she worked for after that, or where she got her training as a cook. She never talked to me about that.
To give you more of a description, Mother used to have long hair and she would do it in a bun and coil it round at the back, although I think she did have it cut when she was in her late seventies or eighties for comfort and ease of washing and such like. She used to wear skirts and blouses mainly, long skirts as she had very fat legs and was very conscious of them. I remember when she was only about sixty buying a new coat and I remember her saying, "Now this coat will do me my time. I shall not want another coat." She lived to be eighty five so I reckon she had quite a few coats after that one, but I remember her buying this coat and saying she wouldn't want another coat, that his one would see her life through.
My Dad called her ‘Mother’ as often as not. She called him ‘Dad’. I was quite old before I knew what Mum’s proper name was; she was always ‘Aunt Grace’ in the family. I don’t know where it came from but she didn’t mind it. I found out that she was Elizabeth Rose when it came to her pension. You didn’t get a pension then until you were seventy and as a married woman when your husband was seventy. So if you’d married a man like my Dad who was six or seven years younger, she couldn’t get it until my Dad was seventy. When she finally did get it, it was just ten shillings a week. Big Deal! And she’d had to wait so long for it!
Her Father, Henry Humphreys was a shoemaker from Newnham on Severn in Gloucestershire, on the banks of the River Severn and on the edge of the Forest of Dean. Apparently he was very strict and he used to say, "Now Girls!" and twitch his nose like a rabbit. "Don't you be late and don't you go on that river bank." If Mum and her sisters were out walking along the river bank and were not back at a certain time, her father would be coming seeking them. He used to snort his nostrils and then bustle them in, saying "You girls, come on in!" He used to bustle them in and no messing. If he was anything like Uncle Harry he was only a little fellow.
His parents had been Charles Humphries, who was also a shoemaker, and Harriet Pain from the hamlets of Ham and Stone near Berkeley on the south bank of the River Severn. They were married on 24th April 1834 when they were both only 19 years old and Henry was born that summer (only four months after the wedding). We do not know where they originally came from.
Charles and Harriet stayed in Berkeley for a few years and his sister Harriet was born there two years later, but by 1840 the family had crossed the River Severn to Blakeney where his brother Richard and later, his other brothers and sisters were born. Charles was still working as a shoemaker.
The family were still living in Blakeney in 1851 when Henry was 16. At this age many youngsters would have been living away from home; out at work, but Henry was still living at home with his parents, probably acting as an apprentice to his father. By the time he was 25 he too was a shoemaker.
In about 1857 he married Mary Bellamy. She would have been about 19 years old and was the daughter of William Bellamy, a small farmer from Elton, near Westbury on Severn. They settled in Blakeney and their first son Walter was born there in 1858.
Mary came from a family that had been established in Westbury on Severn since Tudor times. The oldest family records go back to Christopher Bellamy, a Tanner whose son, William had been born in 1572. Christopher died in 1604. The family continued as tanners and then small farmers for generation after generation, with the oldest sons usually carrying the name of William. Mary's great grandfather, one of these William's, who was born in 1745, left a will when he died in 1830 that gives a good idea of their lifestyle and income;
Will proved 1830 of William Bellamy of the Tything of Elton in the Parish of Westbury in the county of Gloucestershire - Yeoman
My messuage with the two gardens and orchard and the rudge of land in the field, all situate in Elton & now in the possession of my son in law William Apperley and John Davis as tenants, which I bought from Richard Elton for my daughter Ann Apperley to be hers until her decease & then to go to my grandson Joseph Bellamy, third son of my son William Bellamy. My messuage with the garden and close of orcharding called Sumds, containing about three acres & a half in Elton and now occupied by myself & my son William Bellamy, to my daughter Elizabeth Bellamy for her lifetime and after her death to John, the second son of my son William Bellamy. I give five closes of pastureland planted with fruit trees in Elton, called, Rowla, the Laynes, Studley, The Orles and Upper Orchard to William Smith of Ardeus in Westbury and his heirs subject to a payment yearly of £20 to my son William and £5 to my daughter Sarah Drew for the rest of their lives (tax free), payment to be made quarterly. Sarah's money to be for her sole use & not controlled by her present or any future husband. I give to my daughters Ann Apperley and Elizabeth Bellamy and son William Bellamy the sum of £20 each. I give to William Bellamy my savings in the Westbury Friendly Society only for the education of his children I give the sum of £120 to Richard Thomas of Westbury, Cordwainer, & William Smith on trust to share between the six children of my son William Bellamy when they reach 21, the interest in the meantime to be used for the children's maintenance, education or other benefit I give to Richard Thomas & William Smith the sum of £40 on trust for the two surviving children of my daughter Ann Apperley as above. I give to my son William Bellamy, and daughters Ann Apperley & Elizabeth Bellamy my cask & cider in the cellar, my cask in the mill house and all my coal & bacon equally divided between them I give to my son William Bellamy, my cart mare, cattle, pigs and hay, cask and other articles & things in the dairy, house furnace and cider mill, pigs and hair sheets, bed bedstead & bedclothes and box belonging in the bed chamber over the kitchen and open headed hogshead and open headed barrel brewing tub and ladders I give to Elizabeth Bellamy all my plate, linen, china, glass, books and all the rest of my household furniture.
Signed 9th May 1821. Sworn less than £1,000, 23rd October 1830
He died 20th July 1830 aged 85 and was buried in the family tomb in the churchyard at Westbury on Severn.
Mary's grandfathers will was more modest and also appears to have disinherited his eldest son, another William. He gives everything to his friends to look after and hold as trustees for his wife and other children but with a Codicil;
"I also have a small piece of pasture ground with a pigsty opposite the house I now live in, called the Patch; I give this to my wife Elizabeth."
He died 1842 and was also laid to rest in the family tomb. Mary's own father's will was more modest still.
Will made 1860 by William Bellamy of the Tithing of Elton, parish of Westbury on Severn in the county of Gloucester, Farmer.
All my real & personal estate on trust for my wife to use & occupy during her life. At her death, all to be sold & shared among my children then living except for a piece called Taylor's Orchard which I give to my son William Bellamy.
Her father died in 1860. The will was proved on the 26th Jan 1861, valued at under £200 and Henry and Mary moved to Elton to be near her mother as lodgers, which is where their second son Joseph was born. Her mother was then aged 40, still with five young children at home and her husband had left her the 14 acre farm to run. Mary's older brother was not at home at this time and Henry was still practicing his trade as a shoemaker. They stayed at Elton for at least two years and then by 1864 they moved to Newnham on Severn where they stayed until at least 1894 when he was recorded in the Kelley's Directory as being a Boot and Shoemaker.
Henry and Mary eventually had eleven children born over a period of 20 years, the fourth of whom was Elizabeth Rose. None of them seem to have followed in their fathers footsteps as a shoemaker.
I do not know what happened to mum's aunts on the Humphries side, but by the time of the 1881 census her fathers two younger brothers, Charles and William were both living in Aston in Birmingham as corn millers. By 1901 they had both moved on to Bolton in Lancashire where William was still milling corn but Charles was working in an Iron Foundry. His wife Mary was from Lancashire which could have explained the move north.
Mother's oldest brother Walter seems to have followed his uncles to Birmingham. In 1881 he was a salesman for a firm making Ginger beer and was also living at Aston in Birmingham. He married Ada, who was a local Aston girl, and they had three daughters. By 1901 when he was described by the Census as a mineral water salesman, his eldest daughter Elizabeth was a schoolmistress, Edith, the next, was a dressmaker and the youngest daughter Henrietta who was 14 was a typist.
The second brother, Joseph was also working for a Soda Water bottler in 1881, but he was still living at home at Newnham. By 1901 he had followed his brother to Aston and was now working for a Billiard Maker.
William Frederick was the third son and although he was a railway porter living in Newnham in 1881, he too was living in Birmingham by 1901. He was a school caretaker at Bordesley, in the Aston area of Birmingham and married Jessie from Herefordshire. Uncle Will used to come from Birmingham to visit us at the farm quite regularly before he was married. He was nice was Uncle Will. It was a big school in Birmingham and he had a housekeeper. He eventually married her and they had a son but I don't remember what they called him. One year mother and I went to visit Uncle Will and stayed with him for a while. One day when we were going into town from where he lived we got separated and the two of us got on the bus but they didn't which caused a bit of confusion because we didn't know where we were going or where we were supposed to get off.
I do not know where Mum's sisters Mary and Rosa ended up; I can remember going to visit an Aunt and Cousins in Yeovil in Somerset, but I can't remember which ones they were, but her sister Ann Jane could very well be the Annie King to be found in Ystrad Fodwg in Glamorganshire, (there is a photo taken by a welsh photographer with the name King on the back). Alice's whereabouts in 1901 are unknown too.
The youngest brother Harry was married to Jessie from Coleford and he became a baker in the Forest of Dean with three daughters and a son, Jessie who had been born in Ladywood in Birmingham, Agnes, Edna and then young Harry. Of all of my Mothers brothers and sisters I think I knew Uncle Harry Humphreys the best. They lived at Broadwell, near Coleford in Gloucestershire. I used to go and stay with them and they used to come and visit us. He had a bread business - he was a good baker. I used to go round with Edna when she was at home and we used to deliver the bread loaves twice a day in a little pony and trap. Lovely round cobs they were. I don't know if Uncle Harry and Aunt Jessie came to visit our farm, but their children certainly did. They often came to stay and I went back with them one or two years, to Gloucestershire.
Agnes' whereabouts in 1901 are not known, although it is believed that like most of the family, she too ended up in Birmingham and the youngest daughter Ada Rose was a dressmaker, living in lodgings in the Ladywood area of the city.